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Iraq Transition

Explosions rock central Baghdad

Police say 10 killed, 22 wounded in three blasts at sunset

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An explosive detonates Monday in Baghdad.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three explosions near two hotels housing international journalists and contractors rocked Iraq's capital at sunset Monday, killing 10 people and wounding 22, Baghdad emergency police said.

Police said the three blasts were caused by suicide bombers using two car bombs and a cement truck, but journalists in one of the hotels said the first two explosions were rockets, followed by a car bomb.

A statement from the coalition press office said the explosions were a combination of rockets and car bombs and that no coalition forces were injured. (Watch explosions rock central Baghdad -- 2:05)

The third blast was larger than the initial explosions and went off as police and emergency crews rushed to the scene.

The first car explosion caused a breach in the outer perimeter around the Palestine and Sheraton hotels, a multinational force spokesman said.

Five minutes later, a second car tried to drive through the breach but was engaged by civilian security forces and instead drove around a traffic circle, where it detonated near a mosque, the spokesman said.

About 30 seconds later, U.S. military forces engaged a cement truck as it drove through the breach, damaging some vehicles, including a military vehicle, the spokesman said.

Video taken from a nearby rooftop showed the truck driving through a security gate near the Palestine Hotel. The gate had apparently been left unmanned after the first two explosions.

Seconds later, a huge blast was seen near the hotels when the truck exploded about 20 meters (66 feet) inside the perimeter.

Visible more than a mile and a half away, the blast illuminated the evening sky and smoke filled the area.

Authorities said they would investigate how suicide bombers were able to get so close to the hotels in the high-security neighborhood.

Iraqi officials said there was considerable damage to the area, which includes the busy Firdous Square roundabout, where Iraqis and U.S. troops pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion.

Several shops and businesses were damaged, Baghdad police said.

The blasts occurred when people would normally be heading home to break their daily Ramadan fast.

Violence elsewhere

Elsewhere in Baghdad, gunmen killed a city official Monday morning in the southwestern neighborhood of Saydiya, the Interior Ministry said.

In Shaab neighborhood of northern Baghdad, a car bomb near a police patrol wounded five people, including two police officers, the Interior Ministry said.

A Marine assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), was killed in action Sunday by small-arms fire during combat operations in Ramadi, the U.S. military said on Monday.

The death brought to 1,998 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion.

Twelve construction workers were killed Sunday evening near the city of Musayyib, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Baghdad, when gunmen opened fire on them, police said. Another person at the site was kidnapped.

Referendum results trickle in

Election officials said Monday the vote count from the province of Nineveh could determine whether Iraq's draft constitution passes.

That province has a significant Sunni Arab population. Sunnis were highly vocal in their opposition to the constitution ahead of the October 15 vote.

So far, the western province of Anbar -- also with a large Sunni population -- overwhelmingly voted against the document, with a vote of 96 percent. In Salaheddin province, 82 percent rejected it.

If two-thirds or more of the votes in three or more provinces turn out to be "no," the referendum will fail.

Authorities with the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said 7 million people voted in the referendum on the draft constitution and that the count so far showed 76 percent approved it.

When questioned about extreme results, including the 99 percent "yes" vote in one Kurdish province, electoral officials said United Nations experts and Iraqi teams verified the results.

Shiites and Kurds have largely backed the constitution.

Other developments

  • A former Iraqi intelligence officer who is critically ill testified before the Iraqi Special Tribunal in a special session Sunday in the case against former dictator Saddam Hussein, the chief investigative judge told CNN. The testimony came as the Iraqi Lawyers Union called on all Iraqi lawyers to refuse to appear before the tribunal until the killing of Sadoon Janabi -- an attorney for a Hussein co-defendant -- is solved. (Full story)
  • Four American contractors were killed in an attack north of Baghdad on September 20, the U.S. military said Sunday. Another two Americans were injured in the attack near Duluiya, said a spokesman for Task Force Liberty, 42nd Infantry Division. U.S. contractor KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., said three of its employees were killed that day, said Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann.
  • CNN's Nic Robertson, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

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